Friday, December 09, 2011

Questions from Jangheung High School! (Part 3)

Continuing from yesterday's post, here is the third and last question from the high school students at Jangheung High School in Jeollanam-do.

Question from Gwon-ji (권지):  What was the worst situation when you moved to USA? [미국으로 갔을 때 가장 최악의 상황은?]

Probably the worst situation was my first year and a half at my new high school. As I wrote previously, my family moved to an area that is very heavily Korean American. According to the 2010 census, my town is more than 60% Asian American, probably the highest ratio in the continental U.S. The same was the case in my high school. In fact, because my town has such concentrated Korean American population, many famous Korean American celebrities like Yoo Seung-Joon and Han Ye-Seul attended my high school.

아마 고등학교 전학가서 1년반정도가 최악의 상황이었던 걸로 기억합니다. 이전 포스트에서 얘기한대로, 저희 가족은 재미교포가 대단히 많은 동네로 이민을 가게되었습니다. 미국의 2010년 인구조사에 따르면 저희 시(市)는 아시안계가 60%가 넘는데, 이건 하와이 뺀 미국에서는 아마 제일 높은 수준일겁니다. 제가 다닌 고등학교도 마찬가지였죠. 교포가 워낙 많다보니 유승준이나 한예슬같은 교포 출신 연예인들이 제 고등학교 출신들입니다.

I previously wrote about how I learned English, and it was a long and difficult journey. But that was not the most difficult part of moving to America. As difficult as it was to learn English, I had absolute confidence that I would be able to get it done by doing exactly the same thing I have been doing all my life -- memorizing. (By the way, I know that a lot of people around you say you can't learn English just by memorizing. Don't listen to them. As I explained in the post about how I learned English in America, language learning is entirely about memorization and repetition.)

이전 포스트에서 제가 어떻게 영어 공부를 했는가는 벌써 설명을 했지만, 길고 고달픈 여정이었습니다. 하지만 영어공부가 제일 어려운 경험은 아니었습니다. 영어공부가 물론 어렵긴 했지만, 그래도 해왔던 그대로만 공부하면 (즉, 계속 암기하면) 영어 실력이 늘거라는 확신이 있었으니까요. (여담으로, 주변에 암기 위주로 공부하면 영어 실력이 안 는다고 말하는 사람들이 많을 겁니다. 믿지 마세요. 이전 포스트에 설명한데로, 제 영어 실력은 백 퍼센트 반복과 암기만으로 이뤄졌습니다.)

The most difficult part for me was dealing with being lonely. In Korea, all of your classmates stay in the same classroom all day, which means you end up automatically making friends from your class. In my American high school, I was on my own. Also, I lived in the same neighborhood in Korea all my life and had the same group of friends all my life. The worst part was that, because I wanted to learn English as quickly as possible, I strictly avoided all other Korean students. But for a while, my English was not good enough to make friends among non-Korean speaking classmates. For about a year and a half, I had absolutely zero friends at school. I ate alone during lunch, and went to the school library to read books.

제일 난처했던 부분은 외로움을 견디는 것이었습니다. 한국에서는 반 친구들이 다 같은 교실에 하루 종일 앉아있으니까, 자동적으로 반에서 친구가 생기죠. 하지만 미국 고등학교에서는 완전히 혼자 알아서 해야됩니다. 또 저는 한국에서 평생 한 동네에서만 살아서, 초, 중, 고등학교 친구들이 다 똑같았습니다. 제일 최악의 상황은 영어를 최대한 빨리 배우기 위해서 다른 한국 학생들을 철저히 피해다녔다는 겁니다. 하지만 한동안은 한국말 못하는 친구를 사귈만큼 영어를 잘하는 것도 아니었지요. 그래서 한 1년반정도는 정말 학교에 친구가 단 한 명도 없었습니다. 점심도 조용히 혼자서 먹고, 학교 도서관가서 책을 읽곤 했죠.

This ended by senior year of high school, when I finally had enough skills to speak comfortably in English. My final year at my high school was relatively normal, as I had enough friends and did enough extracurricular activities to keep myself busy. But overall, the first year and a half of my new high school was not a good memory.

제가 고3쯤 되어서야 영어 실력이 어느 정도 늘면서 이 상황은 해소가 되었습니다. 그때쯤에는 친구들도 어느정도 생기고 특별활동도 하고 해서, 고3 생활은 비교적 정상적으로 보냈습니다. 그래도 돌아보면, 이민 생활의 첫 한해 반은 그다지 좋은 기억은 아니었습니다.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Out of curiosity, did you attend CHS? (I am also an alumni there as well).

  2. 이민/유학은 외로움과의 싸움입니다.

  3. Hey Korean,

    I showed the first two posts to 제암반 (this last one was posted after I had that class). Since their final exams are over it's hard to get them to focus, but they were completely silent as I showed them what you wrote. They were really happy to see your response. Thanks again for answering their questions and dedicating 3 separate posts -in English and Korean- to it.

  4. I've known Korean people who have lived here for 5+ years, and their Korean hasn't improved a bit. This is largely due to the fact that they moved to parts of LA that have large concentrations of other Koreans so they don't really have the need to improve their English skills. Anyways, my point is that I admire and applaud your dedication to learning the language. I'm sure (like you mentioned) that it was a difficult and lonesome road but clearly it paid off! Thank you for these posts.


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